This month iThrive's Mindful Meditation instructor, Shirley Brandland read and reviewed March's Book Club title "Perfectly Imperfect" by Baron Baptiste
"In any situation in which you’ve taken yourself to a new place with passion and purpose, you are living as a yogi." That is a quote from a book I just finished titled Perfectly Imperfect by Baron Baptiste who has been steeped in Yoga since early childhood. While the principals in his book are about yoga, they can be applied to various aspects of life, especially meditation.
This article was to be focused around the Tibetan Buddhism principal called, GREAT EASTERN SUN which is about living with dignity and non-aggression, incorporating a sense of basic goodness (everything is workable) in every situation. A very condensed definition might be Great (energy), Eastern (direction and vision), and Sun (brilliance and clarity pregnant with potential). After reading Baptiste's book I realized that the Tibetan focused gaze is similar to his sense of 'drishta' in yoga. The first two limbs of yoga are respectively direction (yama) and focused observation (niyama) which almost dovetails Great Eastern Sun. Both of these traditions that truly integrate body-mind have evolved over thousands of years.
In yoga or many situations, we have goals and desires which are important mainly because they provide direction. But here is where it gets tricky. Sometimes we don't get what we want, and sometimes we fall short. Moving toward our goal and staying open and curious when things don't go our way is an art and a necessary skill because all mental suffering comes from attachment to outcome. Baptiste says 'As soon as you think you have mastered form or anything, you have given up learning’. **. This requires a mind that has been trained to not follow unwanted thoughts and opinions. In Zen Buddhism this is called 'beginners mind'.
In yoga the physical body is used to achieve poses (asanas, which are the third limb). "Dropping into the physical experience at its rawest basic level is the most valuable, especially if we feel we aren't pushing."** The physical asanas are what most westerners think of when they hear the word yoga, but Baptiste feels that if yama and niyama aren't present, the physical pose has little value. "The real work here is to slow down and create space within yourself.”
Learning to do this is linked to an approach that Batiste refers to as saying 'yes'. He says that no impedes you and flat-out stops you in your tracks. Saying 'yes' has been a practice for me that I've spoken of many times. Saying 'yes' is more than agreeing to do something, it is about noticing how we subconsciously discard or reject ideas, and seeing how our internal dialogue including our abusive self-criticism runs amuck. We are always picking and choosing. Saying 'yes' is a technique to help us stay open and create space. After the initial yes, respecting limitations can be honored. Saying yes to a boundary(no) has a different sense after this process. It encourages honesty as we dig deeper to explore new avenues.
The not pushing part Baptiste speaks of, is where flow and allowing produce transformation, and he feels that in a receiving pose is where transformation happens. In the savasana asana, we discover the possibility of just being: no trying, no effort, and Batiste says "yoga equals the opportunity to discover that space within yourself where you and life originate. ** Another beautiful basic pose is tadasana. This seemingly easy physical pose is "whole body integration when created consciously and embodies true north alignment”. **
So, what about all of the austere practices and incredible physical feats in yoga and Zen we hear about? What about the extremely advanced yoga poses we all would love to master, or the ability to sit on a cushion for 45 minutes without moving or thinking? This is where wise discernment comes in. In sitting meditation, we take a mental posture of stilling the body in order to see how the mind moves. We sit with restlessness and discomfort, and with enough practice the tiger becomes tamed. Then whether you are on your mat letting the experience of the pose penetrate you deeply, or sitting on your cushion, as you come back to the luscious breath you will find the space in which all thing appears out of, and discover yourself in a state of samadhi. Here something beautiful and transformational happens. Great Eastern Sun. Namaste
**quotes from the book Perfectly Imperfect *quote by Shunryo Suzuki
join us for meditation at iThrive Yoga Tuesday 8am and Wednesday 8:15pm